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Twitter was conceptualised as the web equivalent of SMS. But in its four years of existence, the microblog has grown way beyond even what its founders imagined. Millions of people use it in some way: to follow breaking news, to keep in touch with friends or to give expression to their emotions and opinions.

When a few Londoners in 2008 decided to leverage the power of online networking to steer social projects, they were breaking new ground. The thought was elementary: if a million people could network online, why can’t a few of them get together offline? And, thus w as born the idea of Twestival or twitter festival.

Twestival Global 2010 will be held in 175 cities around the world — including Bangalore — on March 25 in aid of international charity, Concern Worldwide. The proceeds will go to its worldwide education projects. Besides Bangalore, six cities — Chennai, Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Kochi — will host Twestival this year. Each city will have its own fund-raising programme, conceptualized and organized by volunteers,
 on that day.

BANGALORE TWESTIVAL AT OPUS

The Bangalore festival will include a rock show by Galeej Gurus, Repsychled, and Nakul Shenoy’s Beyond Magic, at Opus, Palace Road, from 7 pm onwards. “If you are on twitter and in Bangalore, this is a must-attend to meet your twitter friends as well as to contribute to a social cause,” said Vaijayanthi K M, regional coordinator for India. There are plans for a secondary fund-raising inter-corporate cricket match on March 27.

Jason Alexander, who manages Galeej Gurus, said: “We strongly believe in the cause of education that Twestival is supporting this year. We would like to do our part in giving back to the society & community, through what we do best…making & performing music.” Shalini Mohan, a bassist for Repsychled, is excited. “It’s a festival that’s happening all over the world on the same day. Nothing like joining hands for supporting a cause.”

Vaijayanthi says people are now more aware about Twestival. “We do not have to explain the entire premise, the motive and our intention. Companies/sponsors are also more forthcoming and willing to support us because they have seen the impact.”

Founder of Twestival Amanda Rose feels there is no shortage of people who are passionate and want to help. The challenge is coordination, not participation. “Organizing online and gathering offline allows Twestival to harness the incredible communication power of twitter to propel participation in real events. By using social media platforms such as twitter, Twestival is able to connect hundreds of independent local events into a powerful global initiative.”

SOCIAL CAUSE

Concern Worldwide, in aid of which Twestival 2010 is being held, is a 40-year-old Ireland-based international humanitarian organization working among the deprived to improve their standard of living. With a staff of about 3,200 people of 50 nationalities, it operates in 28 countries. In September last year, Concern celebrated 10 years of its work in India.

An estimated 72 million children worldwide are not enrolled in school, says Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide. “Concern is committed to reaching those left behind, giving them access to learning and the chance to break out of the cycle of poverty. Twestival Global is revolutionizing the way concerned citizens all over the world connect to benefit the poorest among us. We are thrilled to have been chosen, and we’re rolling up our sleeves to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity,” says Arnold.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

A group of London tweeple (people who use twitter) hosted an event called Harvest Twestival in September 2008. The objective was to meet up, have some fun and in the process help a local charity organization. They held a raffle, pooled in donations and canned food for a non-profit called The Connections in Traffalgar Square which supports the homeless.

The messages went out on twitter, the event was planned in two weeks, and sponsorships were pooled in from twitter users. The organizers expected not more than 40 to attend, but people had networked online and around 250 showed up at the venue! The Harvest Twestival was a thumping success. While on one side The Connections got the support it was looking for, the event demonstrated the power of twitter as a platform to network and rally for a social cause. The enthusiasm led the way for holding the first Twestival Global, preparations for which began with the first tweet on January 8, 2009.

A month later, on February 12, over 1,000 volunteers got together in 202 cities, including Bangalore, to organize events to raise funds for water projects around the world. Over $250 was raised in one day through events and online donations; resulting in 55 wells benefiting more than 17,000 people in Uganda, Ethiopia and India.

Says Vaijayanthi, “In 2009, Twestival India was able to raise over Rs 90,000 for the non-profits. Considering the ever-increasing number of Indians taking to twitter, we expect to more than double this amount in 2010.”

TWITTER TURNS FOUR

It was on March 21, 2006, at 9.50 pm PST, that Jack Dorsey, founder of twitter, sent out the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr”.

(This article appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, on March 22, 2010)

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Facebook updates are mostly weird, like, “It’s soooo green” or “ah, it’s wet”, or “stop it” etc. They are either too full of multiple meanings or totally meaningless to even the best of friends. I usually don’t spare a second thought for such messages. So, yesterday afternoon when I saw the status message of some of my (women) friends as “purple”, “black”, “pink”, I didn’t find anything unusual.

In the evening, when I reached my office, one of the woman colleagues told me to have a look at the Gmail status messages of women. There too I found colours! My first hunch was it’s some sort of weird intra-office joke. But I found the pattern even among my friends who aren’t my colleagues.

The question, “why these colours”, met with smile and laughter. And one of them said, “It’s the colour of the boyfriend’s underwear.” To which my quick retort, was “That’s some insight!” Only when I heard someone mention Facebook, I remembered what I had seen some hours before.

The women in the office were evidently having fun, seeing the puzzled look men’s faces. Apparently some guy made — what I later realised was — a horrendous mistake, by following suit and putting up his favourite colour as status message. Further embarrassment was avoided — he was told, it was meant only for girls and was advised to remove it. Girls were laughing out loud!

Meanwhile, I did what I do instinctively when I’m stumped for an answer — went straight to Google, with the key words: “women colour status message facebook gmail” O, there it was! Women all over the world were putting up the colour of their bra as status message! A bit more research revealed that the reason behind the meme was to create awareness about breast cancer.

And suddenly (from among men) a rejoicing cry of having cracked the colour code rent the air, with exclamations such as “we now know what it’s”, “the mystery is solved”, “the cat is out of the bag!” etc etc… I told the girls: “You can’t beat technology!” and I was sort of patting my back, quite pleased that I didn’t spend too much time wondering what the colourful status messages were all about.

And, suddenly the women who were laughing all this while suddenly went silent. One girl, who woke up too late, gave up plans to put up her colour the moment it was known what it was all about.

Awareness about bra or breast cancer?

So much for what happened. Now I have a few doubts, the answers for which may not be readily available on Google.

The ostensible reason for the campaign was “creating awareness about breast cancer”. The Facebook message, I am told, was on these lines: “Some fun is going on. Just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of breast cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before people wonder why all the girls have a color in their status.”

Who started this? No one has claimed responsibility! Many cancer research organization are distancing themselves from this.

I have serious doubts if this was a fast one pulled on the women by someone who knew the herd mentality of the cyberworld. And it looks like most women just fell for it. And it was stunning to see how women were willingly shedding inhibition and telling the world the colour of their bra.

Would they have behaved the same way, if someone had asked them — straight on their face — the colour of their bra with the aim of creating awareness about breast cancer?

Information diffuses very fast on the internet. It takes no time for it to spread far and wide across the globe. And this too did. To be fair to whoever started this meme, some organizations like Breast Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society have been reporting a surge in visits to their websites, though there’s nothing concrete to link it to the bra colour meme, other than the timing. And some were mighty pleased that they got some contributions as well.

The basic idea was good: leveraging the power of the internet for a social cause and even including a bit of fun. But in all that, how could the word ‘cancer’ be missing? It would have made much sense if women were asked to write how best breast cancer could be fought.

In retrospect, I think, somewhere along the seriousness was lost.

There are some signs of backlash, it looks like. There were girls saying on Facebook that they won’t reveal the colour, and there is a group called “I Really Dont Care What Color Your Bra Is”, which was getting lots of fans.

There were reports in the media of how breast cancer victims didn’t know what they should put up. One woman who had undergone masectomy wrote: ‘None – in fact, I don’t even OWN one…. Nude, nothing…” etc etc…

This is not a joke, it’s heart-wrenching… I think a lot of us who had fun, should think again.

If at the end of it all, if women are now better informed about the disease, well and good. But if it was all about getting some cheap thrill — for men and women — and having fun, then it was a sheer (embarrassing?) waste of time, amounting to trivializing a very serious health issue.

Links:

Newsweek and Washington Post

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This is in continuation of the previous post “What lies between noughties and twenties?” of Dec 29. The question was posted on multiple sites and email, and it elicited quite a number of responses, though I got the maximum responses on LinkedIn.

Some readers said the next decade should be called simply ‘tenties’ since the succeeding ones are ‘twenties’, ‘thirties’, and so on. That sounds logical, if nothing else. There were also a few people who felt the coming ten years could be called 2010s.

One reader felt the whole question was irrelevant since the world would anyway come to an end in 2012! There was another who felt the coming decade should reflect the technological empowerment of people and should be called the ‘idecade’.

Someone evidently brimming with lots of optimism said, “After the first depression, it was the roaring twenties. How about the rollicking teens for this go round?”

There were many suggestions for ‘tennies’. It sounds like the name of a game. But that shouldn’t be a disqualification since the word ‘noughties’, which ultimately came to be accepted, did sound a bit mischievous.

Many seemed to be giving it a ‘human’ touch. “The coming decade will be of gadgets, and it’s the teenagers who excel in them,” said one reader. “So, the decade must have ‘teen’ or ‘tween’ in it.”

There were suggestions like ‘teens’ and ‘tweens’. But, the only problem, if one were to pitch for this, would be the confusion that would arise in a sentence like: “The teens of the teens.”

At the end of it all, the possible contenders narrowed down to: “tenties”, “teenies” and “tweenies”, besides the formal and obvious 2010s.

I have collated below all the 50 responses I received for the question till today.

1) Geoff Franklin wrote:
Please, anything but “teenies” or “tweenies”.

2) Abdul Rahim Hasan wrote:
But they say, it will all be over in 2012 🙂

3) Nancy Wright wrote:
The tweens?

4) DAVE MASKIN wrote:
The 2010s…

5) Tom Field wrote:
We’re emerging from the aughts and headed into the teens. Seems simple enough! 🙂

6) Rodney Ruff wrote:
Probably the “Tens” until 2013 and the “Teens” thereafter through 2019.

7) Nicky Leach, Writer/Editor wrote:
In England, they have moved from the Noughties to the Teensies!!

8) David Geer wrote:
The Noughties +1 ??
The Dime Plus Decade
The Tens

9) Sunita Shukla wrote:
Tweety Tweeties – I guess

10) Jason Schwartz wrote:
The tennies

11) Matthew C. Keegan wrote:
The tens sounds fine to me. By the way, can we all agree to pronounce 2010 as twenty-ten instead of two thousand ten? I’m all for saving a syllable!

12) Atilla Vekony wrote:
Sounds like it’s time to just call it the 2010s. Like we used to call decades prior to the decade-naming madness that started after the 1920s. We’re perfectly happy calling the 1790s the 1790s, the 1640s the 1640s, so let’s call the next decade the 2010s.

13) Judy B. Margolis, MA wrote:
I am calling this decade ‘the Tweens.

14) FRANK FEATHER wrote:
Twenteens..

15) Charlene Norman wrote:
The Decade of Hope? After the first depression, it was the roaring twenties. How about the rollicking teens for this go round?

16) Paul Mount wrote:
As the late, great David Foster Wallace predicted, naming rights will go to the highest bidder. So I’m guessing either “iDecade” or “Google Decade.”

17) Ida Durling wrote:
The Decade of Puberty…

18) Suma Ramachandran wrote:
Some really witty answers here!! Seriously, though, the media will find one or two labels and stick to it. I’m thinking “tweens” for less informal references (although that is already used pretty widely when referring to 12-year-old children, so it may cause some confusion.) “Twenty-tens” is likely to apply to the more formal stuff – and seems to be catching on already. It’s punchy, it’s formal and it’s accurate.

19) Bhalchandra Pai wrote:
20 somethings?

20) Manoj Gopinath wrote:
We could try Teens 🙂

21) Rajkumar S wrote:
tennis 🙂

22) Natesh Manikoth wrote:
Aren’t they called the teens in general?

23) jairaj k wrote:
how abt twenteens??

24) Mathew F.Koottunkal wrote:
How about the teens?! or maybe the ‘tweenies, as in what lies “between” the noughties and the twenties?!!!

25) jairaj k wrote:
or even scorteens or scorties???

26) aravindrenu wrote:
Maybe 2k-teens, to sound more techy..

27) Saikat Dasgupta wrote:

How about haughties, or more specifically for the bottle lovers (which we all are) droughties…

28) Saurabh Sharma wrote:
It can be called the teenties. in that all the “teen” years will fall in this decade…

29) Steve James wrote:
Looks like a 2 horse race between ‘Twenty-Tens’, and ‘Tens’. Twenty-Tens gets my vote.

30) Andy Tow wrote:
Can’t see that any variation that involves “teen” can work…. makes the first three years redundant! I can’t see much wrong with “Twenty Tens” (Nineteen Tens, Eighteen Tens, etc. all seem to work)

31) Jeff Crowe wrote:
How about we call it “the near future” until it’s about half way through…

32) Michael Cianci wrote:
The Next Decade.

33) Bob Halstead wrote:
Pradeep: “Decade” only refers to a period of 10 years, not specifically to a period of 10 years that begins with year 0 and ends with year 9. My point here is that “this decade” or “the decade just ended” can be ambiguous: Is it the 10 years that just ended, the 10 that just started, or some other 10 years we’re in the middle of? Generally, you should avoid relative dating whose meaning changes with the passage of time (“today” refers to a different day today from what it did yesterday). Also, I recommend avoiding cutesiness: no tweenies, teenies, or other such. Go (as others recommended) with “the twenty-tens” or “the 2010s”. For the decade now ending, “the first decade of 2000” (“the 2000s” is too broad) or “the first decade of the twenty-first century”. That may be a bit long, but how many times are you really going to need to use it in any one piece?

34) Manny Otiko wrote:
I’m going for the 10s or the 2010s.

35) Wallace Jackson wrote:
Tenzenia.

36) Paula Cohen wrote:
The first decade of the 20th Century was called the “oughts,” and actual years at that time (and probably up until the 1950s – 60s and even later), were frequently spoken of as “ought-six” or “ought-nine,” rather than “oh-six” or “oh-nine.” The second decade was called the “teens,” as in “back in the teens,” or “back in the nineteen-teens.” Then came the “twenties,” the “thirties,” and so on. I see no earthly reason why we can’t use the same designations in this century.

37) Paula Cohen added the following clarification:
@ Charlene Norman
Charlene, the Great Depression didn’t start until the 1930s, and was preceded by the stock market crash of October 1929…which brought a swift and fatal end to the Roaring Twenties, which, in any case, would have been technically over in another two months. No, I wasn’t there are the time, but my parents and grandparents had lots of stories…

38) Swarna wrote:
Tenteens!

39) George Mathew wrote:
Unities!

40) Bhaskaran wrote:
TenTeens..

41) Korula wrote:
I have wondered many times as to how we can ask a simple question as “Etthraametthe president aanu President Clinton?” in English. Have fun.. Kids between 13 and 20 are called teens and the ones between ten and 13 are the Tweens… mebbe the answer lies somewhere here..

42) Vini wrote:
I don’t have a suggestion but will call the next decade tenties or decaties..whatever you and others over here would like to term it..
When I was in high school, I remember one whole week we were discussing this question.. how do you ask Rajiv Gandhi Indiaude ethramathe pradhana manthri aanu in English. Finally someone came up with this…What is the position of Rajiv Gandhi in the chronological order of Indian Prime Ministers? chronological order can also be replaced with successional list. So maybe we can ask… What is the chronological position of Bill Clinton among the Presidents of the United States?

43) Chacko wrote:
It’s the TEENIES man!

44) Osty Lab wrote:
Seventies, eighties, nineties, TENies

45) Reshma wrote:
That made for an insightful reading Pradeep!and yes… we are at a loss for words!…

46) Decader wrote:
Excellent question, Sir. My vote goes to Tennees to describe the decade we’re stepping into.

47) Yam wrote:
Tennees. Sounds cul,gr8. 🙂

48) B A Rao wrote:
I think tenties is correct because ties is common for other decades.

49) B S Raghavendra Rao wrote:
In the first instance the problem of naming the first ten years between 2010-19 seems to be ipsofacto ticklish,and when I scratched my head to know the next block of 10 years in the period 2010-2019 to coin a word in the english language,as we did when the year 2000 ushered in and called it as Y2K,and as the editor has suggested to know the first 10 years in the range of the period 2010-2019, we can conveniently coin it as tennees or in linguistic terms as Y2K+10 to Y2K+19,the latter may seem to be absurd?
My knowledge about naming the next block of ten years between 2010-2019 in coining the same in english language is restricted to the above suggestion.

50) B Rajaram wrote:
The next decade will be for the man’s search for alternate energy source and will be dominated by the energy crisis and environmental pollution. A real threat to our way of life is looming ahead.To save 40% of energy consumption on the planet by replacing the same with that from gravity, an eco-friendly and eternal system of transportation , financially viable and ready to implement too,as detailed at http://www.atrilab.com will be the focus I believe.Since gravity will be the focus and gravitons is the equivalent of electrons, to get tens, we may name the decade as “gravitens”.

(A version of this article appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, on January 1, 2010.)

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Seventies, eighties, nineties… we got stuck, at loss for a word to describe the next block of 10 years. In fact, English doesn’t have a word to describe the first two decades of a century. Noughties, to refer to the decade 2000 to 2009, was a coinage which became popular and acceptable.

But now we are stuck again. Before we enter the twenties, what do we call the coming decade from 2010 to 2019?

In fact, English language claims to have a word for every nuance. But there are many instances when we don’t have one single word in that language to avoid elaborate explanation.

There are ‘senior citizens’ who are above 60 and specifically sexagenarians, septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians. At the other end, there are infants, children, pre-teens, teens and young adults. It’s youth, when we are in our twenties.

In the thirties, mostly all __ with liberal helpings from cosmetics, fashion devices and gizmos __ hang on to the youth tag. But after that it’s a sort of crisis till 60.

A person in the forties and fifties is neither young nor old. As if a testament to the identity crisis, there is no one single word for someone in the forties or fifties, until he is a sexagenarian. Are the ‘naughty forties’ and ‘naughty fifties’ symbolic of the impatience and identity crisis?

Though a dozen is 12 and a score is 20, there is no similar word to describe a block of 30 or 40. A batsman who piles up 100 runs in cricket parlance is a ‘centurion’, but there’s nothing like ‘half-centurion’ or ‘double centurion’.

At the turn of the twentieth century, along with the technological challenge of Y2K, was the linguistic one, until the word ‘noughties’ was coined because of the two noughts (zeroes) in the years.

Now, what shall we call the coming decade? Can we call it ‘tennees’ or ‘tenties’? Deca stands for 10, so, can it be ‘decaties’ or a simpler ‘decties’?

What are your suggestions on what lies between noughties and twenties?

(This article appeared on page 4 of The Times of India, Bangalore, today.)

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Sabarimala is under a thick blanket of security cover, because of the increased threat perception on Babri Masjid demolition anniversary.

No mobile phones allowed, they have to be deposited at counters and tokens obtained. Baggage will be sent through an x-ray scanner. Only the “irumudikettu” (a bag containing coconut, rice etc) can be taken up the 18-steps; not even knives and other iron objects pilgrims carry to break coconut and for food preparation on the hill. There are many other regulations.

Pampa river. Pilgrims have bath here and trek up the hill. The cleanliness of this area has improved a lot over the years.

Sabarimala is in the midst of thick jungles.

Last week when I was at the hill shrine, I was a surprised by the lack of foolproof security. There were metal detectors which were as usual beeping, but no one was being checked.

In fact, at no point even a casual frisking of pilgrims was done. I saw sharp shooters of the Rapid Action Force with their finger on the trigger, even right up at the temple, on either sides of the 18-steps. But I doubted what they could do in the case of an unfortunate eventuality.

There is usually a surge in the number of pilgrims from mid-December. There wasn't much rush when we were there.

Donkeys are used to carry loads up the hill. As part of the heightened security, they too are being banned.

Will the foolproof security blanket remain, or is this part of the periodic, predictable ramping up of vigil?

(The Hindu and Malayala Manorama reports on security measures at Sabarimala.)

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My life, your curiosity

EPISODE 1

Last week, many of my colleagues and I got an sms. “Baby boy. Baby and mom fine.”

It was from one of our colleagues and the obvious message was that he had become a father, a second time.

Curiously, the message left a sense disbelief among most of my colleagues. The exclamations ranged from the puzzling, “Baby for whom?” to the ridiculous, “Was his wife pregnant?” to one of distrust, “O, we didn’t know his wife was expecting!”

EPISODE 2

Yesterday, another colleague rejoined after a week’s leave.

“Where were you all these days?” asked one.

“Kerala… ” she replied.

“Went on a holiday?”

“No, I went for my engagement. I got engaged….” she replied.

“Wow… you got engaged? O… ho…  C’mmon… where are the sweets?”

And, after that a comment: “Hey, but you never told us that you were going to Kerala to get engaged?”

PRIVATE AND PUBLIC LIFE

These two incidents left me thinking about our high levels of curiosity about other people’s personal lives.

Sharing personal information and matters among bosom friends is okay. In fact there is an understandable and justifiable level of expectation as well, to know what’s happening to our close friends.

But, normally, do we all have a birthright to be kept informed about everyone’s personal and private matters?

Why do we expect ourselves to be told about such issues?

Matters regarding relationships or pregnancy are personal, aren’t they? With whom such information should be shared, and when, are personal decisions to be taken by people immediately concerned with them, most importantly the couple.

Yet, why this feeling of “being left out” and “not in the know”?

THAT’S THE WAY WE ARE?

I have heard that westerners are more circumspect when it comes to sharing their personal information. And, no one takes offense if something personal is not shared with them. People take privacy issues seriously. They are touchy about it. In fact, they may take offense if too many prying questions are asked.

Here in India, our culture and tradition expect us to be friendly to one another. That also might mean sharing information, even personal. It’s taken as an indication of being “one among us”, besides cordiality and warmth. That’s the way probably life was in our villages and small towns. It was all one large family; where everyone reached out to one another at good and bad times.

But, city life and its modernity are a lot about individuality. If at all there’s a group or a community it’s never too large for the personal identity of each one to be lost. Large apartment complexes are still identified with the culture of seclusion, isolation and even insensitivity to another human being. “One doesn’t know even if there is a murder next door” — that’s the way people speak about life in flats or in residential layouts of big cities.

It’s tough to draw a clear line when it comes to matters of privacy. Nevertheless, be it in villages, small towns or big cities, it’s good and healthy to have close friends to share our personal thoughts and feelings. A certain level of healthy curiosity in our close friends’ lives in fact gives them the feeling of being cared for by some one.

But on the other hand, I guess it’s too much to expect everyone to let us know whom they are going to marry or how they are planning their family lives!

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The debate has started all over again — are blogs a public medium or a private medium where personal thoughts are expressed? — Thanks to the tweet of India’s minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor.

Let’s go back to where it started.

Associate Editor of The Pioneer Kanchan Gupta, in all innocence, tweeted to Tharoor:

@ShashiTharoor Tell us Minister, next time you travel to Kerala, will it be cattle class?
11:57 PM Sep 14th from TweetDeck in reply to ShashiTharoor

And 20 minutes later Tharoor replied:

@KanchanGupta absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!
12:17 AM Sep 15th from web in reply to KanchanGupta

Few would have noticed the twitter banter and among those who would have read it, few would have found anything odd in that. That’s because weblogs (both the macro and the micro varieties) are informal media of communication. There are plenty of jokes cracked and slangs used. That’s quite the norm.

So, why this brouhaha?

We have a controversy here because the informal off-the-cuff remark was in the public domain (visible to all). What is uttered in public (whether it be a personal view or an official view) is open to scrutiny and interpretation. It’s only natural that people react in many ways to what is read and heard in public.

This is very similar to the row that broke out over what Jaswant Singh wrote in his book regarding Jinnah. That was Singh’s personal view but aired in public. BJP took offence and went as far as to throw the veteran politician out of the party.

So, what’s right and what’s wrong

There are clearly two aspects to this and similar issues:

1) Let’s remember and be aware that what’s put up on the web — be it on blogs, websites and media like Twitter, Facebook and Orkut — is in the public domain. It’s immaterial whether what is posted on the web is a personal view or an official view. What’s expressed in the public domain can’t be something private.

The only exception I can see is when these websites are “protected” or “private”; which means, what is put up on the websites can be read only by people who have been allowed by the person who put up contents on the website.

Here it is pertinent to note that Tharoor’s tweets are not protected. Meaning, everyone in the world can see Tharoor’s tweets. Tharoor has no control over who sees his tweets and reacts. Incidentally, Tharoor himself had made it very clear that he wouldn’t tweet anything that he wouldn’t have said in the open as a minister.

Thus, twitter is very much like any other mass media device — newspaper, radio or television. And it’s only natural that whoever reads the tweets may have a comment to make which also — in equal measure —  is in the public domain.

2) The second point is we need not take offence to all that’s seen and heard in the public domain.

We live in an era when there is so much of information on the public domain (a lot of which could be private and personal). We need to understand this new mass media scenario.

Just as many thought that there was no need for the BJP to take offence at what Jaswant Singh had said, there was no need for the Congress to feel bad at what Tharoor said.

One, “cattle class” is a slang for economy class. It’s not Tharoor who used that word first. It was the journalist who used it. Tharoor just replied using the same expression. There was nothing unnatural in the usage.

Two, the use of “our holy cow”. Throor in that friendly banter with Gupta used it possibly alluding to the Gandhi family. I really doubt if the humour would have been lost on the Gandhi family.

The Gandhi family is as much exposed to the use of these slangs in friendly conversations as Tharoor is. Meaning, culturally, there’sn’t so much of gap between Tharoor and Sonia or Rahul.

Congress reaction was unnecessary

If Sonia or Rahul wanted a public chastising of Tharoor, then that was bad. The Congress then wasn’t behaving any different from the BJP who were criticized to be intolerant.

My guess is the party spokesperson was jumping the gun; and acting in a “more loyal than the king” manner; probably also with the good intention of reminding all party workers about the need for discipline.

I am sure, Tharoor, the diplomat that he is, would have spoken to Sonia or let her be known in no uncertain manner that it was just a casual banter with a journalist and no offence was meant. And, Sonia would have just let it pass.

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